I love watching (old?) movies, The Dark Knight among my favorites. Do you know the scene where the Joker commandeers a tractor trailer, and he’s driving down the road mumbling to himself, “I like this job. I LIKE IT!”? Well, that’s me in the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, supercharger at full whine.
I like this job.
The 2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat Overview
Wait, they still sell this car? They do! Initially limited to 2,000 units in 2021, it seems Dodge underestimated the appeal of a 710-horsepower supercharged V-8 packed into the automotive equivalent of a dad bod. So here we are. But 2024 really is the last year, and they mean it this time. Right, guys?
It’s probably for the best – the Durango as it sits here is dated. It’s been around in one form or another since 2010. That’s like, Jersey Shore era Mike. Let’s get this out of the way early – this Dodge is big, loud, expensive, and really fast in a straight line. It will make you laugh out loud. If you have kids, expect a riot to ensue whenever you’re first at a red light.
Dodge has won big by going with the business model called “Hellcat all the things”. Like Oprah handing out car keys, FCA has stuffed this 6.2-liter under every hood that can accomodate. Have you ever driven a regular Durango and thought “needs more meat”? You might now. Hell, Dodge even splits the pie – check out the SRT 392 with just 475 horses for a go-between model. That’s for the weak.
What will they replace this all-beef patty with? An electric car?
Hold on – that’s the ending. We can’t skip over all the good stuff…
Performance Score: 8. Hear me out
I can appreciate this car. It’ll run a 12 flat quarter-mile, get to 60 by the time it takes you to say “rib eye”, and can tow 8,700 pounds. There’s also some fun buried in the chassis, and up to about 7/10s, it’ll make you smile.
The last time we visited this engine, it was in a Ram TRX. In the Durango it’s just as powerful and raw, with a supercharger whine that will make you giggle like the Joker every single time.
There are normal and sport modes that typically stiffen up throttle response, and a button on the dash called “Launch Control”. It’s labeled correctly. This V-8 has power everywhere – relentlessly pulling you forward no matter where in the rev range you are. The soundtrack is the stuff that keeps you up at night. Dare I say you might not even need an exhaust; it’s pretty loud for a car geared toward civilian duty. Make sure your significant other is on board with the purchase, otherwise dirty glances from the starboard side will be common place.
“Is it supposed to make that sound all the time?”
It is. This isn’t a nuanced experience – we’re not talking AMG bi-turbo here. More Gatling gun, mowing down everything in its path. You’ll back off quicker than expected because you’re in triple digits after a single deep breath.
There’s something satisfying about grabbing that T-shaped shifter and putting it in D, then perching your hand on top of it. It’s like the throttle on a fighter jet.
It equates itself well, pretty much staying out of the way of the V-8 and offering snappy shifts, especially in Sport mode. Paddle shifters offer the ability to chose your gear, but it’s rare you’ll need to.
The power travels to all four wheels, and grip is prodigious – Dodge did an excellent job tuning the powertrain to make it harmonious. Perhaps the shifts could be a little quicker (it’s no ZF), but I’d call it perfect for the Durango.
Chassis and Steering
It’s hard to pin down the chassis setup of this car. You might find yourself hurling it into a corner only to find some heavy leaning, overloading the front wheels. But that’s a compliment because the Durango makes you believe you can do it up to about 7/10ths.
But then you remember: “Oh yea, I’m in a 5,700-pound Brontosaurus.”
The car really is planted, and the steering feels terrific, almost old-school. Slightly heavy, with a good amount of real feedback. The wheel itself is wonderful to grip as well, with a flat bottom and a thick rim.
But at the end of the day it’s still a big SUV, so it will squat and dive. You quickly learn that it doesn’t enjoy being pushed beyond that 7/10ths mark, and getting into serious speed territory begins to feel like you’ve simply put a saddle on the V-8.
Some cars feel smaller the faster you drive them. The Durango does not accomplish this feeling.
I must give credit – Brembo brakes provide confidence, with a firm pedal feel and no fade. Six-piston calipers in front and four in the rear clamp down on discs the size of a family pizza. Nothing fancy here – no slots or drilled holes, but that’s of no consequence. If you find yourself fading the brakes on this SUV, you’re probably at 50,000 feet and it’s too late for you. Bye bye.
Would the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat make sense as the perfect daily? From a performance perspective, maybe. If you need the room (or towing ability), and love that supercharger whine, it’s great. But it’s never light on its feet.
I will admit that the Cadillac Escalade V is the only other ‘Murica Muscle SUV for sale here, and the Durango is more fun to drive. Big muscle car vibes. As for the rest of the package…
Utility Score: 8. Mid-size meat
Obviously, this car is great at carrying things. The middle row features two captains chairs that my six-year-old loved because they were actually designed for human butts to sit in, unlike so many flat bench seats. They easily fold out of the way to provide access to the third row.
Some say the nose-bleed seats here are small, though I did not find them to be cramped or uncomfortable, considering they would be used for kids, or even adults in a pinch. Would you rather this, or a minivan?
There’s also a ton of cubbies and storage throughout, but the trunk is on the small side if you don’t fold down the rear. The best part – the tailgate button is hilariously located inside the trunk instead of on the hatch. This means you better move fast if you want to get out of the way of the closing door.
Sometimes I wonder if the engineers check their work before it gets to the factory.
Fuel Economy: 1. Extinction event
I drive these press cars around for a week, so it’s inevitable that I will put fuel in them. Listen, I did not drive it like a saint, but I swear I was reasonable. Most of the miles came from highway runs. I averaged 12 MPG.
The Durango has a 24.6-gallon fuel tank, and with premium at well over $4 a gallon in New Jersey, we’re beyond $120 to fill this guy up from empty. You need to be ok with this, because that fuel tank drains fast. If you’re in something special that’s designed to give you maximum performance and speed, I think it’s more acceptable. In a Dodge Durango, meant to carry people and make Home Depot runs? Might become annoying after awhile.
Even the Cadillac had cylinder deactivation, so surely Dodge could come up with a way to bring up fuel consumption a bit. How they plan on going from this to a battery-powered lineup is escaping me.
Features and comfort: 4. Old School, not cool
The top song played in 2010 was by Kesha. Drew Brees was the Super Bowl MVP. And the Dodge Durango debuted.
To be fair, it’s been updated inside. But for $104,670, you are walking by quite a few more luxurious cars for that motor.
Ok ok – it’s not terrible in here. The seats are comfortable, Apple CarPlay works better than in a BMW, and hey, at least there’s buttons!
But the leather feels cheap – almost like they got it from the restaurant I shot the car at. Staring up at you from the dashboard are dials so old I swear they could be from the 90s. The digital screen plopped in the middle doesn’t offer much (and this is the upgrade), and that speedometer off to the side is unreadable.
When you glance to the center stack, you’ll need to bring your reading glasses. That screen is so small, it makes all the text inside it positively Lilliputian. Dodge’s interface is clunky too, almost an afterthought. Look up to find a tiny sunroof on a big car. Even the steering wheel buttons – volume and seeking are behind the wheel, so you can’t tell which is which. And the stereo, made by Harmon Kardon of all companies, isn’t very good. It’s an upgraded unit with 19 speakers, but it sounds muffled.
Good things? The dry forged carbon trim is neat, and Dodge tries with a stitched leather dash and gloss black trim. Sadly, it’s pretty obvious the car has a base price in the high $40s, no matter how much they gussy it up with Hellcat flair.
Sometimes, the Car Gods smile upon me. Walking out of the gym, I saw this guy parked next to my Hellcat…
Now, this Triple Nickle R/T looks an awful lot like my Hellcat. The R/T costs $54,000. I could buy two of them for one big boy SRT. Sure, I get a more prominent lip, no fog lights..but don’t you want people to know you bought the full fat version?
At least you get modern stuff – LED projector lamps, functional hood scoops, blacked out trim. Octane Red Pearl Coat looks pretty good, but ten-year-old Mike would like white with blue racing stripes. Actually, 39-year-old Mike would like them too.
Inside and out, you get everything a modern car has, but the sensation is more tacked on, less integrated. Imagine wireless charging back in 2011? Imagine a 710-horsepower family SUV back then?
The Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat proves that not all the whales need to be saved
Back to the beginning. 2024 is your last chance to buy this car, but I don’t think Dodge is stopping because they want to save the planet. The Durango itself has simply become non-competitive. Maybe not this Hellcat variant, but mom and dad looking for a family truck don’t care about this car – they want features and safety.
Ah, but you and I do care about this car – what will become of the Hellcat name? An electric truck would be as fast, or faster, but it wouldn’t tow nearly as much, nor would the range be equivalent. Instead, Dodge is going back in time (before even this Durango) to resurrect a very special name – Stealth.
Yes, that Stealth, of 3000GT fame. Course beyond that badge they will share nothing, nor will this new SUV share anything with the current Durango. It’s highest-output engine to start with will be a turbo V-6.
Well, I don’t believe them. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of this supercharged V-8. But just in case I’m not an automotive Nostradamus, pick up one of these and rev the snot out of it. I sure did.
I like this job…
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